For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
I’m in Davos, Switzerland, the site of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. I usually use our “What in the World” section to give you my thoughts about something that struck me. But I’m going to cede this space to someone else today – Bill Gates.
His annual letter is out. It debunks three myths about fighting poverty and has gotten attention for its claim that by 2035, there will be no more poor countries in the world (using today’s definition of poor, of course).
But what caught my eye was myth number two: foreign aid is a big waste. Actually, this might not strike many as a myth. Lots of people believe that what we send abroad doesn’t really help countries alleviate poverty and develop. Well, Gates does a very nice job carefully explaining why foreign aid has in fact been a pretty spectacular success. The largest piece of evidence for this is literally the life-saving effect of aid.
By Ben Leo, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Ben Leo is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Rethinking US Development Policy initiative at the Center for Global Development. The views expressed are his own.
"Where are President Obama and the United States? We see China every day and more and more of our officials are getting in bed with their leaders and businesses. But, where has America gone?"
I still vividly recall the remarks from a leading Ghanaian businessman two years ago over drinks in Accra. It summed up the confused mood of many Africans at the time – not just in Ghana, but across the rest of the continent. After years of economic growth and improving investment climates, they were increasingly bewildered that Washington had not elevated its economic engagement.
But while public attitude surveys perhaps unsurprisingly suggest Africans are most concerned about a lack of jobs, poor infrastructure, the economy, and rising inequality, the U.S. response to these concerns has been puzzlingly inconsistent. Indeed, while Africans have tended to worry most about the kind of economic policies that affect their wallets, only 16 percent of U.S. development assistance in Africa over the last decade has focused on these priorities.
By Ted Caplow, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ted Caplow is an engineer and social enterprise entrepreneur who has developed ventures aimed at addressing renewable energy, water conservation and sustainable agriculture. The views expressed are his own.
Last year, my wife and I welcomed triplets. Born six weeks early, they spent their first month of life in intensive care. Thankfully, we had access to the best neonatal medicine and our children today are healthy and growing. This life-changing experience, however, made us acutely mindful that our good fortune is not shared by many families and children around the world. In fact, nearly 18,000 children under five die from preventable causes every day.
The death of any child is a tragedy, and its significance should not be diminished by the fact that we live in a world where wealth and knowledge are unevenly distributed. I made it my goal to ensure that my personal resources are better shared and used to save children’s lives.
So I set out with a simple question: What is the greatest number of children’s lives that can be saved with one million dollars? I knew that I wanted to save lives that would otherwise be lost, and that I was willing to invest this money into any highly credible project, in any country in the world, to achieve that goal.
By Ben Leo, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ben Leo is Global Policy Director of The ONE Campaign, an international advocacy organization co-founded by Bono. The views expressed are his own.
GPS recently published a thoughtful piece on how global poverty rates are falling fast. It argued that one country in particular is almost solely responsible for this dramatic trend: China. Meanwhile, it said progress in the rest of the world “has been much, much slower – if there’s been progress at all.”
Here’s the problem. There are 62 other countries across the globe that are also slashing extreme poverty rates at a remarkable pace. And many of them are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. So, the more important question is – how do we accelerate the progress being made in places like Ethiopia and Uganda while simultaneously jumpstarting it in places that are lagging behind, like Nigeria and the Congo?
It’s true that China’s case is remarkable – both in terms of its sheer scale and speed. It has lifted 680 million people out of poverty in a single generation. That’s amazing. It’s every poverty fighter’s dream. But the global story isn’t just about China. It is also about countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana, and Senegal that are also witnessing dramatic declines in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.25 a day.
By Christopher B. Barrett, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Christopher B. Barrett is a professor at Cornell University and author of an American Enterprise Institute paper on U.S. food assistance programs and the book Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting Its Role. The views expressed are his own.
How many of us read a story of disaster striking people half a world away and respond by getting out our checkbooks? Tens of millions of us in any given year, and Americans are especially generous. Relief agencies received more than $1.2 billion in the wake of the disastrous 2010 earthquake in Haiti and $3.9 billion following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. But is anyone foolish enough to go to the local grocery store, buy food and ship it to communities devastated by disaster? Of course not. That would cost much more, take too long to reach people in need, risk spoilage in transit, and likely not provide what is most needed.
Yet with only minor oversimplification, this is precisely what our government’s food aid programs have done since 1954. Our main international food aid programs are authorized through the Farm Bill and must purchase food in, and ship it from, the United States. This system was originally designed to dispose of surpluses the government acquired under farm price support programs that ended decades ago. These antiquated rules continue today thanks to political inertia in Washington.
By Chen Reis, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Chen Reis is clinical associate professor and director of the Humanitarian Assistance program at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. The views expressed are the author’s own.
Forty years ago, on January 22, 1973, American women won the right to legal abortion after the Supreme Court narrowly decided the landmark case of Roe v Wade. Shortly after the 1973 decision, members of Congress enacted the “Helms Amendment,” that states that "No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” This amendment has been incorrectly interpreted to restrict the access of women worldwide to comprehensive reproductive health care including abortions even in the case of rape, incest or medical necessity. At the moment that American women won the right to have power over their own fates, those in the most need around the world lost theirs.
A correct interpretation of the Helms Amendment would allow exemptions at least in cases of rape, incest and medical necessity. As implemented, however, the policy flowing from this amendment has restricted women’s access to abortion even in countries and circumstances where abortion is legal. This inconsistency was recently noted in a letter written by 12 members of Congress to President Obama in December. They pointed out that the current application of the Helms Amendment is inconsistent with other federal policy and requested that the president change how the policy is implemented.
By Kirk R. Smith, Special to CNN
Kirk R. Smith is a professor at the University of California-Berkeley and chair of the expert group evaluating household air pollution risks for the Global Burden of Disease, and the 2012 Tyler Laureate for Environmental Achievement. The views expressed are his own.
About the worst thing you can do is stick burning stuff in your mouth. Every year, tobacco kills more than six million people, according to the World health Organization. Including secondhand tobacco smoke affecting non-smokers, it is the chief cause of ill-health (measured as lost years of healthy life) among men globally and for everyone in North America and Western Europe.
The terrible disease burden imposed by tobacco is recognized by most people, but the risk of another form of smoke is also highlighted in the new “Global Burden of Disease” report released last Month in The Lancet – smoke from cooking fires. About 40 percent of the world still cooks with solid fuels, like wood and coal, in simple stoves that release substantial amounts of the same kinds of hazardous chemicals found in tobacco smoke directly into the household environment. Indeed, a typical wood cookfire emits 400 cigarettes worth of smoke an hour.
By Mustapha Tlili, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mustapha Tlili is the founder and director of the Center for Dialogues: Islamic World – U.S. – The West at New York University, and a member of the advisory committee for Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
There is universal agreement that unemployment (in particular youth unemployment) and poverty played a significant, if not the most important, role in the Arab Spring. High levels of youth unemployment and economic problems prompted civil unrest and dissatisfaction with the government, and gave many young people the time to network and organize. Yet now, economic woes – initially a democratizing force – have turned into an obstacle for many young democracies. Solving youth unemployment will therefore be instrumental in determining the long-term success of the Arab Spring.
Tunisia, where it all started, is a good case study. No wonder that the revolution in Tunisia began in the central region of the country rather than coastal areas, where about 80 percent of the population live in much better economic conditions. These central lands are economically depressed, neglected for decades by various Tunisian governments.
By Lisa Ballantine, Special to CNN
Lisa Ballantine is executive director of Filter Pure, which focuses on providing sustainable water sources in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The views expressed are her own.
As we watched Hurricane Isaac sweep through the Caribbean at the end of last month, we were confronted with images of more misery hitting Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, an island hard-hit over the past few years. Media coverage showed people being pounded by wind and rain, floating in flood waters and in desperate and immediate need yet without shelter. Organizations and individuals in the U.S. have been moving to respond with help and aid. But the need goes deeper than relief for a single hurricane or earthquake.
It is, of course, wonderful to come from a country that responds to the needs of the international community in times of disaster, and many Americans are generous and quick to reach out to those in need. But many of us living in developed countries struggle to genuinely understand the daily grind of poverty as parents are forced to travel to watering holes or to try to protect their sick children from parasites.
This week, hundreds of world leaders and tens of thousands of environmentalists are convening in Rio de Janeiro for the U.N.'s Conference on Sustainable Development.
Bjorn Lomborg, author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” says the Rio+20 summit will be a wasted opportunity and that the U.N. is focused on the wrong things. He says that for every person who might die from global warming, 210 will die from health problems caused by a lack of clean water and pollution.
Editor's Note: Throughout the week, Ruchir Sharma will be posting thought-provoking questions with answers and explanations on CNN.com/GPS. Be sure to check out his excellent new book Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles.
Question: What are the only two countries that have grown at an average annual pace of more than 5 percent for the last five decades in a row? FULL POST
Editor’s Note: Contributors to this post will be part of a panel on the topic taking place on Thursday, February 9th in Washington, D.C. Sign up for the event here. This post is part of the Global Innovation Showcase created by the New America Foundation and the Global Public Square.
There are now over 5 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, according to the International Telecommunications Union, with global mobile penetration at 87 percent. In the developing world, where landlines are especially scarce in rural areas, mobiles have been used for governance, banking, agriculture, education, health, commerce, reporting news, political participation, and reducing corruption.
But the ubiquity of the mobile phone - and its application to a diverse and growing set of development goals - doesn’t guarantee economic or social progress.
Are mobiles just another high-tech solution to what are essentially systemic and deeply rooted problems? Are mobile solutions for combating global poverty overhyped?